Infographic: Long hours and many miles driven for Dakota County plow drivers
Record snowfall in February led to high costs for Dakota County and multiple, long shifts for the workers who run the plows.
"This is the toughest (month) that I can remember where we just had to keep going and going," said Todd Howard, an assistant county engineer with Dakota County. "No one snowfall was especially noteworthy, but they just kept stacking on top of each other."
In Hastings, snowfall totaled 39.2 inches, almost double the previous 21-inch record met three times before — in 2011, 1967 and 1962, according to National Weather Service data. That and other snow throughout the area meant the county's roughly 30 snowplow drivers worked more than 2,500 hours of overtime, used around 3,900 tons of salt and plowed a total of 60,000 miles in roads, Howard said.
The drivers work across 14-hour shifts and typically start at 2:30 a.m. for overnight snow, he said. It takes about five hours to get the first plow done, just in time for the morning traffic rush.
"The (drivers are) ready for it to be done, but I know every one of them will step up for (more snow)," Howard said.
The county also tracks gas consumption in its vehicles. While some is used by other county vehicles, Howard said they burnt over 55,000 gallons of gas by the end of month, up from the typical 13,500 gallons.
The county has started to run out of places to move the snow and has started to leave some at the county's shop or found space at some right-of-ways, Howard said.
"At first the snow was welcome, because we had such a mild winter ...but it got old pretty quick," he said.
And although February's record snowfall is over, March is shaping up to be cold and could bring more snow, said Caleb Grunzke, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
"March is looking cold and looking pretty wet too," he said.
The weather service is tracking an upcoming weekend storm and another storm next week that could both bring snow, Grunzke said.
March is often easier on plow drivers and the county though, Howard said.
"I'm hoping March will be easier," he said. "The sun is so high in the sky that it melts quickly and it does most of the work."